49TH ANNUAL CLINIC
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
The Texas Bandmasters Association for the second year continues to sponsor a series of clinics
on beginning instrumental teaching methods, presented by some of Texas’ premier music
educators during the 1996 TBA Convention in San Antonio, Texas. These master teachers,
chosen from the ranks of superior music educators in the State, represent a wide diversity in
geographic location, as well as, in teaching situations.
A session will be presented on six band instruments with a companion handout. In this
handout, you will find teaching methods, and classroom organizational skills which are used
successfully in today’s schools.
We acknowledge the efforts of the clinicians who prepared these booklets and, who also
presented a clinic session. In addition we acknowledge Jim Hagood, TBA Immediate Past
President, whose vision provided us with the many benefits we gain through this series of
clinics. Jim Hagood’s foresight, and diligent efforts in laying out the ground work for these
series is very much appreciated.
This series is respectfully dedicated to the legions of band directors who have gone before us
and who have built the music education program that is unique in history: TEXAS’ BANDS.
Representing the best of this tradition was the 1990 President of TBA, the late Malcolm Helm,
whose example and teaching inspired and challenged all of us.
Bob Brandenberger, President, Texas Bandmasters Association
A 1968 graduate of Hemphill High School, Danny Prado received his Bachelor of Music
Education from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches in 1972. He began his
teaching career in Jacksonville, Texas before moving into the Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD, where
he taught first at Euless Junior High then Bedford Junior High for the next seventeen years. In
1989 he assumed his present teaching position in the Grapevine-Colleyville ISD at Grapevine
High School. Mr. Prado received his Master of Arts Degree from Texas Woman’s University in
1993. He has conducted All-Region Bands, Honor Groups, workshops, and clinics throughout
the state. Mr. Prado has served on the U.I.L. Music Advisory Committee and is presently
Region V TMEA Secretary. He is a member of TMEA, TBA, TMAA, IAJE, and Phi Beta Mu.
Beginning Snare Drum
Superior snare drum technique is essential for the beginning percussionist to
develop as it is the basic instrument for all other percussion instruments and
techniques. Poor snare drum technique will result in poor keyboard, bass drum,
timpani, drum set, triangle, etc., performance. However, most of your beginning
percussion students are not attracted to the bell kit. They want to play DRUMS!!1
I believe very strongly that a beginning percussionist should develop their snare drum
execution before moving to the other percussion instruments. One of the strongest
statements to bolster this belief came for the great Louie Bellson at a TBA clinic some
years ago. His massive double bass kit was set up on the stage and after his
introduction, he came on and sat down and played this kit with unbelievable delivery
and musicianship. After his two minute solo was over, and the crowd was near the riot
stage, Mr. Bellson asked the crowd ( the front two rows were filled with young students)
if they would like to be able to play in this manner. After a rousing “YES” from the
crowd, Bellson walked over to a 15” field drum on a stand next to the mike, and
proceeded to play a single stroke roll in the traditional open and closed method. This
performance was even more intimidating than the drum set solo. After finishing the
last tap, he turned to the audience and said : “If you want to play drum set, you have to
be able to play this instrument (pointing to the single drum) first!!” The point is clear
regarding snare drum approach being the main axis of the percussion family.
One of the first steps in developing a student’s snare drum method is to make
sure the student is suited for the percussion field. We “drummers” have many times
been exiled to non-musical ideas and conversations. How many times have you
heard or been guilty of this yourself? “ I don’t think this kid is going to be able to play
anything. I guess I’ll just put him/her on drums”. You must monitor this instrument for
appropriateness just as you oversee any of the other instruments or you will be
blessed with beginning drummers who will be very disenchanted and we all know
what happens to frustrated beginners on any instrument. THEY QUIT! So you must
make the commitment to make sure the instrument suits the student.
An evaluation I have used for years is this:
(1) Have the student pat his foot with you at about 72 beats per minute.
/THE FOOT PAT MUST REMAIN STEADY IN ALL OF THE
FOLLOWING EXERCISES). Make sure the students foot pat is exactly with
you and your foot. Ask the beginner a question. Ask another. If the foot pat
stays relatively steady during this conversation, this will indicate some
internalization and coordination.
(2) Have the student tap one hand on his leg with the foot pat on the
beat. Next, tap the other hand, then alternate the hands. It is not necessary to
tap the hands on the same leg, whatever the student is comfortable with is fine.
(3) Have the pupil tap a down and up pattern (eighth notes) with one
hand while the foot pat remains the same. Next, use the other hand, then
alternate the hands.
(4) This step, I believe, is the most important and if the student is
competent here, there is no reason he should not develop into a superb
percussionist. Explain that the foot pat will remain constant and the same, but
the hand tap will only sound on the upbeat. Demonstrate this and let the
student hear and see it. Have the pupil attempt this with each hand, then
alternate the hands.
(5) The next two steps are additional steps that you can add, but are not
mandatory as the others are. Have the student tap a triplet pattern with each
hand then alternate.
(6) Have the student tap a sixteenth note pattern with each hand then
Using this exercise, I have found that most students capable of this do not
encounter any trouble grasping other snare drum concepts.
After you have established your beginning percussion students, what
equipment do you purchase or rent? There are several options and only you as the
director are able to determine what is the best for your particular environment and
(1) It is important for each beginning student to purchase a stick bag with
a pair of snare drum sticks, a pair of general purpose timpani mallets and a pair
of keyboard mallets, This will be the basis of their collection as they start their
percussion studies, It also puts them closer to the price range and logistics ,
echelon of the other band students who are also procuring and storing their
instrument. Assign each beginner a bin or storage area just as you would
everyone else, put the name of the student on the bag with a permanent marker
and mark m of their sticks, otherwise they won’t have any of these by the
second week. (Blane Womble has a great storage idea at Colleyville Middle
School. He uses a cap or hat rack and hangs the bags in the percussion area
of the band hall).
(2) Along with this stick bag you will need a practice pad, metronome,
and stand for the pad. Over the years, I have found certain pads and stands to
be better than others, however, you will need to make this decision yourself.
(3) You will need to decide on whether or not to include a set of bells in
this purchase or not. Mr. Glen Fugett’s excellent handout from the 1995 TBA
Beginner Instruction Series recommends a bell kit of some type.
(4) A decision must also be made on whether to include an entry level
snare drum with this kit. Over the years, I found this to be a waste of parents’
money; the student will rarely play this instrument, and the major future
purchases for a percussionist is usually a drum set (with a snare drum) or the
acquiring of a mallet instrument.
Now that we have instruments, you need to decide on the type of drum stick you
think the students should have. Not all students have the same size hands, but I feel
that there is rarely enough disparity in the students hands to justify an alternate model
stick for some students. A stick that I have very good luck with is a stick about 16 7/16 “
in length with a rounded tip. I like the weight and length as it is long enough for the
students to control, not too heavy and has a great bounce. The stick needs to be cut
from good wood to insure longevity.
Now that the student is ready to play, what book or books do you use?
(1) If you are fortunate enough to have your beginning percussion class
separate from the other beginner classes, you are in business. There is an
abundance of material for you to sort through to decide what is best.
(a) Elementary Drum Method by Roy Burns. This book has some
great repetitive 4 and 8 measure drill that is so critical in developing good
style. The pictures in it are not very good, but there are some very good
basic exercises. This would be an excellent book to use if your
class is in with other instruments as all of the exercises are 4
and 8 measure phrases.
(b) A Fresh Approach to the Snare Drum by Mark Wessels. In my
opinion, this is one of the verv best books on the market. It
contains great concepts, great explanations, great pictures, and really
good exercises. Mr. Wessels’ latest edition also reinforces these
exercises with more supplementary pages.
(c) Another very good book is the Alfred Drum Method
(d The percussion books that are in your beginner series
(Essential Elements. Division of the Beat, Ed Sueta) will suffice if you use
supplementary materials with different exercises.
Once you have established your materials, go to the nuts and bolts,
FULCRUMS, LEVERS, HINGES, ETC.
(1) There are generally three accepted areas of development here:
arms; wrists; fingers. Probably the two most neglected areas are the arm
motion and the finger control. Of these two, the most overlooked is probably the
arm. The arm must be developed in order to develop a smooth transition and
technique in multiple percussion, timpani, drum set, and quads (tenors). The
down and up motions as well as the side to side technique must be developed.
This technique must be monitored very carefully as it can produce tension. 1_
usuallv do not mention this fulcrum until the wrist and finaer develooment is
introduced and some master-v of the two techniaues has come about. I trv not to
stress the arm movement without makina sure the wrist and finaers are used in
conjunction with it.
2. The wrists are very important in the technical development of snare
drum. In developing the right hand, attempt a very relaxed stroke similar to
bouncing a basketball on the floor. Do this without the stick in place and then
after the grip has been introduced, attempt the same motion with the stick in
place. For traditional left hand development , (do not develop this
techniaue until vou have established the entire ariD) think of turning a
door knob to the left or pouring a cup of water out.
3. Finger development is one of the most important procedures to learn
in beginning percussion. If this finger control is not ingrained in the beginning
year, it is very difficult or impossible to develop this concept at a later date. Start
the training of this finger rebound process immediately after the first stages of
the grip are developed.
Now to answer the question of whether to use matched grip or the traditional
grip. Depending on your situation, the high school director may be adamant about
using one or the other for the visual effect on the marching drum line. This seems a bit
absurd to stipulate a particular grip for anything other than what is best for the students
performance. If that in fact is a real issue, then use the matched grip students on bass
drum, tenors, cymbals, or pit and use the traditional grip on the snare line.
A little bit of history here. Up until the sixties, most beginning snare drum
students in this country were taught with the traditional grip and simply changed over
to the matched for other percussion performances. With the British Rock & Roll
Invasion, students were inundated with TV shows featuring dozens of popular musical
groups with drummers who “couldn’t even hold their sticks right!!” Many of us
are ashamed to admit that at one time we were responsible for those quotes, even
though we are great fans of many of those groups and percussionists. In defense of
those “invading” drummers, they were simply emulating the grip of the British and
European classical percussionists they had seen. These orchestral percussionists had
been using matched grip for years before the British pop groups were ever formed.
With the matched grip influence invading the country, many percussion educators and
band directors begin to question the validity of the traditional grip. This became a
huge issue in the late sixties and into the seventies and still remains somewhat of one,
although we have managed to resolve most of the hostilities. My opinion regarding
the grips is: It does not make any difference, but the mistake most non-percussionists
(and some of us percussionists) make in teaching an\r grip is: ignoring the weak
hand! All students will have a weak hand and since most of us are right handed, the
left hand is generally the weak limb. You must monitor the left hand in all grips as one
of the biggest problems encountered in judging hundreds of young snare drummers
over the years, is the poorly developed weak hand, regardless of grip! In short,
monitor the grip every day, every minute and do not assume that matched grip
will automatically solve your beginning drummers’ technical problems.
Teaching the matched grip:
(1) Ask the student to hold the stick between the top part of the thumb
and the index finger about four inches from the butt of the stick.
(2) Curl the other fingers around the stick but make sure all of the fingers
are relaxed and the back fingers do not squeeze the stick. Squeezing will
cause tenseness and tension is the culprit of almost all of poor snare drum
Another step used is for the student to:
(1) Turn their left hand palm up.
(2) Place the stick in the hand, hold the stick naturally, and turn their hand
palm down. This will often work but only if you are monitoring the thumb
(which I prefer to be parallel with the stick).
(3) Have the student begin striking the pad (see rebound exercise on
supplement sheet), watching for the rebound, and making sure the second, third, and
little finger are all contributing to the bounce of the stick
Teaching traditional grip:
(1) Start out with one stick and hold the left arm and hand straight out but
relaxed and palm down.
(2) Have the student place the stick between the thumb and the hand
deep into the fleshy part. With this same position, try to “waggle” the stick
with the thumb in a pendulum or metronome action keeping the palm
down and level.
(3) As the students practice this, they will periodically have to push the
stick back into the fleshy part as it will have a tendency to move out. You
will need to return to this exercise on a daily basis for several weeks to
reinforce the relaxation and thumb control this requires. As you move
this stroke to the pad, have the students play at their own speed while
monitoring their individual progress with this hand.
(3) Move this stroke to the pad, and allow the students to play at their own
speed while monitoring their individual progress with this hand.
(4) Keep the wrist movement to a minimum while maintaining the palm in
a “shake hand position”. Work to get a very high, even bounce. You will need
to watch for too much wrist and arm movement in this technique and the
students will need to move the stick back into the hand constantly. Monitor the
students to insure there is enough room toward the butt of the stick. The closer
the hand is to the end, the less control the student will have. The purpose of this ,
exercise is to get the students to feel, understand, and control the rebound of
the stick. How do you know? It is kind of like a golf swing, hitting a baseball, or
any physical skill, you can “feel it”! Once you have it, it does not go away. Stay
with this technique for as much as six weeks or more depending on the level of
the individual student . In this manner, you can individualize within the class. If
one student is ready for the next level, by all means let them go on. If other
students have not yet grasped the concept, you can continue to observe these
The next step in the development of the left hand is the placement of the left
index finger on the stick. This must be inspected very carefully as this step is the most
important aspect of the left hand development. Hopefully, the student has attained the
high, even, controlled bounce by using mostly the thumb.
(1) Have the student begin to lightly place a verv relaxed index finger
across the stick touching the thumb between the first and second joint of the
index finger (closer to the second joint) continuing the bounce exercises the
student has already begun. These exercises will need to be at a faster tempo as
the skill will materialize earlier with a faster bounce.
(2) Monitor the index finger to check for tension and to make sure the
finger is not inhibiting the bounce but controlling the height and speed. The
student will also begin to encounter more wrist movement as this is developed.
It is very important that the student understand and “feel” the control as the
only finger that touches the stick is the index finger.
(5) Constant monitoring of the “shake hand” position is a must for
each student while remembering: Relaxation is the kev in all snare drum
techniaue! You will need to devote a separate section of your class time to
develop this technique as combining this step with your rhythmic reading and
hand alternation will result in bad habits.
(6) The final step in the traditional left hand grip is the placement of
the third and fourth fingers.
(7) Place the stick on the ring finger between the first and second joints
and let the little finger curve naturally under it. Make sure the fingers do not
touch the palm. Lastly, position a very relaxed middle finger over the top of the
stick. This finger will rarely be used except as a “control stop” for extremely high
bounce or loud volume sections. Continue with the “waggle” exercise and
observe that the “waggle” is now much more controlled and contained. The
hands and fingers must still be very relaxed. Continue with the bounce
exercises and monitor each student in order that the third finger will only
touch when lifting the stick to start a new pattern with this finger acting as a
cushion and maintaining elasticity. Once this step is completed, you now have ’
a traditional grip.
As with any other teaching concept, you will need to go back to “step A” and
review each one of the steps, refine and reinforce daily to ensure complete
relaxation and control.
There are five main strokes that are necessary to develop outstanding snare
drum technique: (1) downstroke; (2) upstroke; (3) tap; (4) buzz stroke; and (5)
double or bounce stroke.
(1) The downstroke is made by striking the head and keeping the tip of
the stick about an inch from the pad. The student must prevent the natural
rebound of the stick by slightly squeezing the fingers at the moment of impact. I
try to use a combination of the arm, wrist and finger control without calling too
much attention to it. I find out that usually the less I say, the less complicated I
make it, the more successful the student is.
(2) The tap is a very soft wrist stroke without any arm fulcrum while
keeping the fingers very relaxed. Keep tip 1 to 2 inches from the head.
(3) The upstroke is a combination of a tap, wrist and arm with the stick
immediately moving therefore setting the stick for a downstroke.
(4) The buzz stroke is produced by striking the head with the tip of the
stick and keeping the tip on the head with pressure from the first finger to
produce the bounce. As the stick begins to bounce, relax the first finger (and all
fingers) to continue the bounce. Practice “holding” the buzz out for as long as
possible with each hand. As the buzz progresses, begin faster tempos and
subdivisions (quarters, eighths, sixteenths).
(5) The double stroke is one of the most ignored strokes in snare
drumming. This stroke is essential in developing strong rudimental snare
drum technique. Try playing groups of four sixteenths with each hand, then two
sixteenths on each down beat to develop the bounce and finger control you
RUDIMENTS OR NOT??
At one time in the sixties and early seventies, there was a very pessimistic
attitude toward rudimental development and rudimental drumming. The mentality
toward this type of performance seemed to indicate it was never used in orchestral,
jazz, or legitimate wind playing and technique could be easily developed using other
materials. I feel that the development of rudiments and the bounce (double stoke,
finger stroke, etc.) is the most important training you can give a beginning snare drum
student. Beginning instrumental technique for any instrument is dependent on
fundamental scale development and this instrument is no exception. The drum corps
movement along with the drumming tradition maintained by our military marching
bands (cadences, rudimental solos, open stroke rolls in marches, etc.) has saved this
technique and brought our beginning snare drum approach back to focus on this all
THE PROBLEM RUDIMENT
The most misplayed drum rudiment is the flam. I mention this problem on 98%
of the student comment sheets at every solo & ensemble contest I judge.
Key points in flam development
(1) The flam is a combination of an up stroke and a down stroke.
(2) T+ first left stroke (up) is played about one inch from the head
very softly a;::! then the stick is lifted up where it becomes a prep for the
oncoming down stroke (left).
(3) The right hand makes a very firm down stroke and remains one
inch above the head becoming the prep stroke for the soft up stroke with
the right hand. Move the sticks at the same time as the stick which is lower will
strike the head first softly, with the downstroke following much louder producing
the correct sound. This technique must be constantly monitored to avoid “flat
flams” (sticks striking the head at the same time). This is a valid’ technique for
drum set development but should not be mentioned or attempted at this stage.
(4) One of the best ways to supplement the study of this rudiment is to
practice a variation of the paraddidle. (See Supplemental Sheet)
As mentioned earlier, the development of the bounce and finger control is a
must for the beginning student and the beginner year is the only time you will be able
to monitor the students on an individual level. Mastery of the the strokes (down, up,
tap, buzz, double) is the primary concern at this stage of development, not speed.
SNARE DRUM SOLO SELECTION
One suggestion I would like to make is that all first and second (maybe even
thirc,! :rear snare drum solos be very rudimentally oriented. This is imperative for
deveiopment of the technique needed for the other percussion instruments. It is also
important for the student to development musical phrasing and rudimental training
establishes this sense better than any other rhythmical application. A good practice is
to have students involved in writing and playing their own solos (eight to sixteen
measures) during the last few weeks of school. The students should arrange and
repeat rudiments while the instructor monitors the fourth and eighth measure for
closure and phrasing.
Beginning percussion students must perfect snare drum basics before
attempting other percussion instruments. Most percussion students gain their mallet
knowledge from prior or simultaneous KEYBOARD TRAINING, not necessarily the
performance of mallet percussion instruments. Without the keyboard knowledge, the
snare technique is useless, but keyboard knowledge is even more of a waste if the
student has no vehicle in which to release it . It is nearly impossible to develop an all-
around percussionist who is lacking in early and methodical rudimental training. This
is so essential in the early stages and unachievable in later years of performing. Have
your students observe as many professionals, university performers, local pros, live
bands I 2s possible. Purchase some of the many rudimental training videos that are on
the market, introduce them to the internet, (or more likely, have them introduce you to
it) start a Percussive Arts Society Club in your school, have them subscribe to Modern
Drummer magazine (this is available at area book stores, pick up (or order), the many
color percussion catalogs of the different percussion companies and use them as
motivational awards for achievement in your beginning classes. The availability of
percussion related information is endless these days, and you must be responsible for
making yourself and your students aware of it.
ONE OF THE MAIN COMPONENTS OF A MASTER TEACHER IS THE
GATHERING AND SHARING OF INFORMATION!
> > > > > > > >
R L R R L R L L R L R R L R L L R L R R L R L L R L R R L R L L
D U T U D U T U etc.
Start this technique very slow, monitor the down, up and tap strokes making sure all
strokes other than the accented strokes are played at a much softer level.
R R R R R R R R L L L L L L L L R R R R R R R R L L L L L L L L
Let each student attempt this exercise at their own tempo. All of the class may try
this at the same time and you are able to monitor and help the students who are having
trouble. Insist that the footpat is accurate. Make sure the fingers are working and the
stick is bouncing.